Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Repeat Floods Inspire Inventor

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Repeat Floods Inspire Inventor

Article excerpt

LITTLE FALLS -- Necessity being the mother of invention, Sean Mathews saw plenty of need for waterproofing inventiveness in the chronic flooding of basements -- and their water heaters and furnaces -- plaguing his hometown.

So he applied his own creative mind and hands to the problem, and what he's come up with -- the "utility sleeve" -- is about to get tested out with some free samples being distributed in town.

Little Falls is a small community along the Passaic River with steep slopes that send rainwater and river water cascading through neighborhoods, and the Mathews household is as flood-prone as its neighbors.

"My personal experience has been that you wait for the water to recede after a flood. You have no hot water, so you can't take a shower and you are waiting for the utilities to be put back in," Mathews said.

The township has more than 300 homes in flood zones, says Mayor Darlene Post, and there were "six or seven" major flooding events just during 2005-11.

Mathews started drawing blueprints and researching materials to create something that would cover his water heater and eventually came up with the utility sleeve.

"It passed the regulations for federal fire codes. It doesn't stick out from the water heater at all. It's not obtrusive. It's easy to use," he said. "Every person that I talked to wanted to know why this doesn't exist. It is now patent pending. The materials are all UL-rated and federally approved."

Mathews has submitted the utility sleeve to the state Division of Codes and Standards to secure statewide approval by month's end.

The sleeve is for "one-time use," he said, and guaranteed in water of up to 4 1/2 feet. As far as water getting under the sleeve?: "It is not sealed to the floor, but no water will get under it because the weight of the unit will be on it," Mathews said.

Mathews said the device has undergone two flame resistance and self-extinguishing burn tests. …

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